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Riverside business rezoned without warning

After closing his family’s 62-year-old business, Kevin Pope was deconstructing the property for new companies to move in when he received word that his industrial address will be rezoned as, “residential.”

In a public comment made at a Riverside City Council meeting last week, Pope asked the council to keep the Brookhurst Mill property on Van Buren Boulevard an industrial one. He said he made the difficult decision to close the Mill in March this year and then in May, he was told the Mill’s property can no longer be considered for business purposes. “I’d like to point out why the site is not well suited for housing and why it should be removed from the city’s opportunity site list,” he said at the meeting.

The decision he read in May relates to the city’s Housing Element of its 2025 General Plan, which is required by California law to specify the areas where a potential 24,000 homes can be built in Riverside. These include any that may be rezoned for the purpose of meeting the quota. The plan and its housing element, including the housing opportunities list, are scheduled to be voted on by the city council in October this year.

The Brookhurst Mill specialized in chicken, swine, game bird and turkey feeds but also sold dog and cat foods. Surrounding its property are other industrial-zoned addresses, including an automotive repair shop and two active rail lines that are 15 feet from Pope’s property. The site is also two miles away from public transportation access.

“That’s not to mention the constant homeless problem and drug problem along the railroad tracks next to the property, two encampments have already been hauled away by railroad police this year,” he said.

Pope said in an email yesterday that as the October deadline approaches, he may have a clearer answer as to the status of his property, but for now it remains uncertain.

“I don’t want to speak prematurely before the city has had time to address our concerns,” he said. “We’re remaining cautiously optimistic, but it feels a bit like David vs. Goliath.”

Whether he considers Goliath to be the state law requiring the Housing Element’s process or unseen municipal red tape, Pope did not make clear.